I ride a horse who will absolutely spook...if I let him. There are some horses that you cannot ride passively as they will take advantage. Once I slowed down my brain and tuned into the horse a little more I started to notice his triggers and that I wasn't helping the issue because I would get nervous and back off too easily. Now I make sure we are constantly doing something. We're either bending to the inside, to the outside or going straight for a few strides then changing the bend. Sometimes he'll want to evade work by jigging and I just press him into a leg yield and move his body laterally since it's harder to jig that way and he'll just walk off after. I also hardly ever ride more than just a time or two around on the rail. We're spiraling, doing figure eights, serpentines, changes of direction and just going every which way. We do this at all gaits and keeping him engaged is really the key. If I have his body truly engaged I have him. That may be the case with your horse as well. If you give him something else to think about, there is far less chance of him spooking. If he does spook, I just ignore it and go back to whatever we were doing, not missing a beat. Just because we spooked doesn't mean that we get out of work, but I don't make it into a big production, just move along, nothing to see here. But yeah, if I just got on him with little contact (and leg) and just went around the ring he'd find distractions because I'd be letting him. Make sure to work that brain.
My second warmblood mare, by Art Deco and purchased in Seattle, WA did a bolt and buck (and got me off--totally unsuspecting it as a greenbroke 3 year old). She tried it once in awhile for several years, but finally gave it up with me. However, when someone new would get on, she'd try to see if she could get away with it.
I think it was ALWAYS there......You just had to ride through it and repremend her big time... Then she was okay (till the next time).
]Must admit, at my age with my bad back today, I wouldn;t want to deal with it. But at the time, she never "won".....plus she had an awesome jump
I've got a looky/spooky horse, though it's become more of a startle than an actual spook over time, and it's over quickly. I spent a lot of time riding around looking for things she might spook at, and sitting through it. Pretty much what everyone else says: it's very hard to train out, keep the horse's mind occupied, don't reward them for spooking, learn to sit it, learn what triggers it. My biggest problem these days is anticipating a spook if something weird happens; in a way, I'm spooking before the horse does!
This made me giggle. I was taking a road trip with a friend of mine and I thought I saw something jumping out on the road so I jerked my car into the other lane. My friend asked what happened and I told her I spooked. :-)
I have a warmblood that will spook if he's fresh and you aren't doing something to keep him occupied. I do a lot of different sized circles, transitions, trot poles, etc. I've found that you can't "ride to the spook". If you do they will be nervous and spook because they feel how you are nervous or thinking about it.
Is it really a warmblood thing? I think any horse has the potential to spook. You have to ride it out and be prepared. Easier said than done. I have a 5 year old WB. She has never spooked, or I never really let her because I was always "waiting" for it. Last weekend, a chesnut-mare-eating bunny popped out of crunchy leaves and galloped through the ring. I was not ready for it, very complacent, and she spooked, of all about 3 strides. I became unseated and ended up on her neck, hopped down because my knee is still recovering from an injury, got right back on her, "prepared". No spook. I should have been ready. Familiarity breeds contempt, or in my case, laziness.
No, I am not at all sure it's a warmblood thing. My horse is an Appendix and has always been spooky, nervous, and ultra-sensitive. She is also prone to ulcers. My trainer would agree with whoever it was above that said it's part of what gives her a super jump. I have to be alert but relaxed at all times on her, and I still occasionally come off. Sigh.
I heard a neigh. Oh, such a brisk and melodious neigh as that was! My very heart leaped with delight at the sound. --Nathaniel Hawthorne
I know what you're talking about, and I personally don't think it's a WB thing, however it certainly is more frightening when a big bodied and powerful WB pulls a stunt like that.
A few years back I did a weekend clinic with Chris Kappler, and one of the things he talked adamantly about was that when you get on the horse, particularly young horses, it is time to work--no excuses, no passive riding, no on the buckle riding until after you're done. Once you're on, you get the horse in front of the leg and listening.
Even at the walk, there is so much you can do to keep a horse engaged, both physically and mentally. With Chris, we did a lot of various circle work to encourage contact and good listening in general (up and down transitions thru halt-walk-trot). We also did leg yields, we alternated the bend, we lengthened and shortened the walk on the circle.
Now, none of the previous exercises were news to me, but Chris really got a bell ringing in my head on two points:
1) you start work when you get on
2) nearly everything can be taught at the walk; don't pass it up as simply a way to let your horse warmup before you trot.
I do not ride every single horse I get on with that utilitarian mindset. Some don't need it, some get a little too neurotic. But the younger ones especially, I don't mind putting them to work at the walk, and I find if I'm schooling them from the minute I'm on to walking them down to the ring, there is a significant less chance of them spooking or pulling something stupid. I also ride some of the older horse who should know better but don't like this, and I find it helps. And if the horse does spook, because I'm already mentally and physically in work mode on the horse, I have a much better seat and am ready to stick out whatever the horse tries because in my head I'm still thinking "FORWARD" and the spook passes and we resume.
I hope this helps. My junior hunter (who was a young WB incidentally), God love him, could be a prick when he decided to buck and bolt out of the blue. It really wasn't until after we parted ways and I went to college that I got more confident dealing with that kind of crap.
And remember, if the spooks your horse is pulling are physically wearing you down, there is no shame in sending him to bootcamp with someone else. Life is too short to have to see a chiropractor 3x a week because Little Tiny Tim keeps thinking the rabbit is going to eat him.
Spooking is definitely not a "WB" thing. Any breed or type of horse can be spooky. It is just that WB's tend to be bigger and more powerful therefore any spook and the movements that may follow are intensified.
There have been many good suggestions in this thread. Bottom line.... making him "work" from the time you get on and not giving his brain any time to focus on anything else should help significantly.
Horses are flight animals so yes they all do it given the right circumstances. I think it gets discussed more as a WB thing because it feels different on them. As has been said before many TBs give you plenty of warning before they take action whereas a WB seems to spook out of nowhere and it takes you by surprise and is, therefore, more likely to get you off. I've had plenty of TBs and WBs and my TBs were by far more sensible animals that barely spooked and never spun. My WBs all had a dramatic spook in them with leaping or spinning and bolting. Certainly not a scientific study by any means but there does seem to be a difference.
I just sold a very similar sounding horse, though he is a paint. His spooks/bolts were random. Most of the time he was pretty lazy and very calm on the ground with good manners. There was a big one in a field one day - he spun and bolted - I came off and had a knee injury that required surgery. Still, I kept him and thought I could deal with it. After a few more big spooks, which I was able to ride out, I decided that I'd had enough. It was really taking the fun out of riding. The last one was witnessed by my 20 year old friend who said "I don't like that for you, you ARE 44." Yes, all horses can spook, but there are safer horses out there, and they aren't necessarily "dead." I sold him with full disclosure. I bought a 4 year old Connemara mare. She looks at things and has had a couple of tiny little spooks, but she clearly processes things differently than my other horse.
I'm not saying you should sell him, but it is an option if you don't want to have to get on him and keep his brain totally engaged for fear of spooks. The thought of that just wears me out. And you mentioned that some of these spooks result in you coming off. Eventually you are going to get hurt if he doesn't change his behavior.
thank you Armchair Saddler! I see a western saddle in my future. He won't like the part where he has to work harder. Not one little bit. LOL
Next time you prune a tree with a TB as a ladder you have to video it . You could make millions on youtube.
Oh, and here's the other bit--- the way you get Spooky WB to go with a big loop in the reins.
You make him "solve differential equations" until he relaxes a bit. Then you let him "watch cat videos." If he does anything wrong, you through another math problem at him. Pretty soon, he figures out that there is a "sweet spot" to be found. If he chills.... and keeps chilling, he can earn a soft ride for himself.
The Western Pleasure crowd does this because they have to. The horse needs to spend the whole class in that "sweet spot" of relaxed-listening--- even next to the ferris wheel outside the ring. The people who train this are mentally "on" all the time. They teach the horse that the only easy spot for him is being attentive to the rider. They *look* for relaxation and obedience and try to reward it-- extending the soft ride for as long as possible so long as the horse hasn't made a mistake. If the horse needs a correction-- his mind hasn't wandered too far, they correct him softly. If he doesn't answer, they get suddenly harder on him and "put him back" to the gait, bend or speed they want. Then they leave him alone again. It really does work, but it takes some time to train and intention on the rider's part.
It also means that the beginning of the correction is always the same. It starts out soft. This way, the horse becomes easy to show. You don't do a lot to modify the horse in the ring.... because at home, he learned that a much bigger and firmer correction would follow the soft one if he didn't get back in line.
FWIW, I don't think there's a difference in the breeds of horses who spook this way or that way. It's that most WBs can handle the mental pressure of having someone give them *more* to think about in response to a horse letting his mind wander to the outside of the ring.
OTOH, I rode the stupid hot TB (who was the pruning ladder) like a WB-- I expected him to think the whole time I was on him. I was quiet and business-like on his back, but boyhowdy, that horse was kept busy with some new demand from me all the time. He caught on and became more like a WB ride. But it took time to get him there in a way that a pretty-well-broke WB would just have.
Last edited by mvp; Mar. 30, 2013 at 02:14 PM.
Reason: Gifts from Western World
I have a fabulous hunter. Quiet, cute and talented. Every once in a while he lets out a spook and a bolt or a spook and a spin. It is taking the fun out of riding him. If I plug his ears and put him on the walker for 30 minutes before riding it is less likely to happen. He is on "cold" feed, his saddle fits, he is young and fit and not in pain. I am a good quality rider. He has a huge living area and buddies to play with. I am stumped. My other horse - mostly TB - sends me an email before he spooks so I can ride thru it. The WB does it with no warning making it even more disconcerting.
Please please please point me in the right direction or to an insightful article... Thank you!
If you need a talented horse because you compete, that's one thing. But if you ride for pleasure and for fun, that's different. You said his spooking was taking the fun out of riding him. It costs just as much to keep a fun horse as it does to keep a spook that will end up teaching you to ride defensively.
I personally am still working through the riding fears caused by the lazy spook I used to own. Never again.
My current horse is no bicycle, either. He has his days like any other horse, but he is honest about them. On days like that I either ride with a running martingale, or get one good lap out of him and give him a pat and a turn out.
A helmet saved my life.
2014 goal: learn to ride like TheHorseProblem, er, a barn rat!
OP - I don`t know your history with this horse, but I would have his eyes checked. If he has a reason to spook that`s one thing (ie tractors or loud noise etc), but if it truly is random it may be vision related.